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United Nations Daily Highlights, 01-01-18

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From: The United Nations Home Page at <http://www.un.org> - email: unnews@un.org

HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE NOON BRIEFING

BY FRED ECKHARD

SPOKESMAN OF THE SECRETARY-GENERAL

UN HEADQUARTERS, NEW YORK

Thursday, January 18, 2001

SECRETARY-GENERAL EXPRESSES CONDOLENCE AT DEATH OF KABILA

In a statement issued after the noon briefing, the Secretary-General expressed his condolences to the Government and the people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) following the news that President Laurent Kabila had died. He voiced the hope that the peace process in the DRC would not be derailed by Kabila's sudden death, and he reiterated the United Nations' commitment to the search for a lasting peace.

The Spokesman, in response to questions, said that the Secretary-General's Special Representative in the DRC, Kamel Morjane, and UN humanitarian officials remained in contact with their counterparts in the Congolese Government. He said that many concerns remained about the peace process in the DRC.

ANNAN TELLS LEADERS AT YAOUNDE TO CONFRONT AFRICA'S PROBLEMS

Africans are showing "a new will to look their problems squarely in the face," Secretary-General Kofi Annan said this morning in an address to the France-Africa summit in Yaounde, Cameroon. He cited as examples the recent peace agreement between Eritrea and Ethiopia, the free and fair elections in Ghana and African leaders' willingness to break the wall of silence on HIV/AIDS.

Industrialized countries must be convinced of the importance of Africa, he told the assembled heads of state. "We must appeal to their enlightened self-interest," he said. "We must convince them that Africa matters, and that this is a time to increase, not diminish, their positive engagement with us."

In the margins of the summit, the Secretary-General also had the occasion to talk with a large number of African leaders, both in bilateral meetings and in casual conversation.

Following today's events, the Spokesman noted, in response to questions, the Secretary-General would depart Cameroon, and was scheduled to visit China by this weekend.

SECURITY COUNCIL HEARS BRIEFING ON KOSOVO

The Security Council this morning held a formal meeting on Kosovo, on which it heard a briefing by Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean Marie Guehenno on the latest developments there since mid-December.

In the briefing, Guehenno noted the work the United Nations has done to deal with the possible depleted uranium problem in Kosovo. He said that an initial survey by the World Health Organization and the UN Mission's Department of Health and Public Welfare indicates that the incidence of leukemia in adults in Kosovo has not increased. However, he added, the Mission has posted warning signs in all areas known to have been targeted by shells containing depleted uranium, and WHO is dispatching to Kosovo three specialists who can assess the consequences of exposure to depleted uranium.

The final report on depleted uranium of the team of scientists led by the UN Environment Programme, which visited Kosovo last November, is expected by March.

Guehenno also noted that additional progress has been made to deal with the issue of Kosovo Albanians detained in Serbia. However, he added, the security situation remains serious, with a UN municipal building in Zubin Potok struck in a shooting and grenade attack last month. Also, attacks have continued against minorities, including Kosovo Serbs and Ashkalijas.

At 3:30 this afternoon, the Council will go into closed consultations to discuss recent developments in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and in Liberia.

On Friday, the Council will have another public meeting -- this time on the follow-up to Security Council Resolution 1308 (2000), which concerns the impact of HIV/AIDS on peacekeeping.

Asked about the AIDS formal meeting, the Spokesman noted that the United States had requested the meeting, and that Guehenno would speak about AIDS and UN peacekeeping. He noted that the United Nations did not screen peacekeepers for AIDS, but that it encouraged Governments who contribute troops to do so.

TWO MEMBERS ADDED TO PANEL ON FINANCING FOR DEVELOPMENT

Two more people were added to the Secretary-General's High-level Panel on Financing for Development today: Masayoshi Son, the President and Chief Executive Officer of Softbank Corporation in Japan; and Aleksander Livshitz, Chairman of the Board of the Russian Credit Bank.

Last month, when the Secretary-General had announced the High-level Panel, which is chaired by former Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo, he had noted the possibility of further additions to the initial nine names on the panel.

UN SAYS IRAQ HAS BEEN SLOW TO CONTRACT HUMANITARIAN SUPPLIES

Benon Sevan, Executive Director of the Office of the Iraq Programme, sent a letter to the Security Councils 661 Sanctions Committee on Iraq expressing concern at the "unacceptably slow" rate of contracting of humanitarian supplies by the Government of Iraq under Phase VIII.

The letter was sent on January 16. As of January 15, the Iraq Programme had received a total of $4.265 billion worth of contracts for humanitarian supplies under Phase VIII, against a total of $7.798 billion allocated during that Phase for that purpose.

The letter says that, despite all the concerns about the nutritional and health status of the Iraqi people, the total value of contracts received under the health sector, for example, was only $83 million, against $624 million allocated for that sector under Phase VIII.

Sevan said he was gravely concerned at the unacceptably slow rate of submission of applications, noted his particular concern regarding the health, education, water and sanitation sectors.

The Spokesman, in response to questions, said that Iraq's spending of the money it was allocated, which now amounted to some $12 billion all told, had been unacceptably low. He acknowledged that, in recent weeks, Iraq also has been exporting oil below its previous level of experts, but he said that was not linked to the low level of humanitarian contracts.

SERVICE HELD FOR MONGOLIA HELICOPTER CRASH VICTIMS

A memorial service was held at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Ulan Bator to honor the UN personnel who died in the helicopter crash in Mongolia on Sunday. Carolyn McAskie, Acting UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, paid tribute to UN staff members Sabine Metzner-Strack, Gerald Le Claire, Matthew Girvin and Batchuluuny Bayaramaa and the other nationals of Mongolia and Japan who died in the crash.

During the ceremony, 17-year-old Sarah Strack, one of the daughters of Sabine Metzner-Strack, said, "My mother left us much too early. She had so much more to give us, so much more to receive, so much more to become."

OTHER ANNOUNCEMENTS

Asked about the visit to Belgrade scheduled for next week by Carla del Ponte, Prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, the Spokesman said that the Prosecutor hoped to meet Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica. She intended to present Yugoslav officials with sealed indictments, he said.

In response to a question on Afghanistan, the Spokesman confirmed that, if the Taliban does not comply with Security Council resolutions calling for, among other steps, the handover of Osama bin Laden, the Security Council's expanded sanctions against the Taliban would go into effect tonight at one minute after midnight.

Staffan de Mistura, the Secretary-Generals Personal Representative for Southern Lebanon met today with Lebanon's Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri to discuss development efforts to promote living conditions. The two also agreed to exert further efforts in promoting the demining of the area, where an estimated 130,000 mines are still located.

This afternoon, India will become the 82nd country to sign the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety to the Convention on Biological Diversity. The Protocol will remain open for signature here in New York until June 4, 2001.

Today, Estonia became the 21st Member State to pay its regular budget contribution for the year 2001 in full with a payment of more than $100,000.

The Pan American Health Organization, the arm of the World Health Organization operating in the Americas, announced today that it has revised its appeal for assistance to El Salvador in the wake of last weekend's earthquake and is now seeking $1.5 million for the emergency needs of the health sector. Early assistance has already been received from the governments of Canada, the United Kingdom, Italy and Norway.

UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization Director-General Koichiro Matsuura welcomed the statement issued by US President Bill Clinton on Tuesday, which urged the resumption of US membership in the Organization. Matsuura said that US participation would provide a "valuable boost" to the Organizations work.

Klaus Toepfer, Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), today began a two-day official visit to Russia. This morning in Moscow, he opened the International Conference on Environmental Legislation in the Commonwealth of Independent States. He will also open a new UNEP branch office in Moscow.

Office of the Spokesman for the Secretary-General

United Nations, S-378

New York, NY 10017

Tel. 212-963-7162

Fax. 212-963-7055


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